Wednesday, November 26, 2014

MCFARLAND: Managing back-to-school expenses

By REBECCA MCFARLAND, Reaching Out | 7/24/2013

In a few weeks, parents across Franklin County will be enrolling their children for the 2013-2014 school year. In addition to enrollment fees, parents must consider the cost of school supplies, clothes, lunches, fees for extracurricular activities, uniforms, transportation costs and after-school programs or child care.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which tracks the cost of rearing a child in the U.S., reports families spent between $1,420 and $3,000 per child for clothing and educational expenses in 2011. For families with more than one child in school, that can account for a considerable amount of the family’s monthly income. So, it’s important to plan for the irregular or occasional expenses that occur with back-to-school.

In a few weeks, parents across Franklin County will be enrolling their children for the 2013-2014 school year. In addition to enrollment fees, parents must consider the cost of school supplies, clothes, lunches, fees for extracurricular activities, uniforms, transportation costs and after-school programs or child care.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which tracks the cost of rearing a child in the U.S., reports families spent between $1,420 and $3,000 per child for clothing and educational expenses in 2011. For families with more than one child in school, that can account for a considerable amount of the family’s monthly income. So, it’s important to plan for the irregular or occasional expenses that occur with back-to-school.

With the beginning of the school year just a few short weeks away, families need to start doing the homework needed to identify back-to-school expenses, and to consider how to cover the essential costs.

Once parents are aware of the basic costs, they need to encourage their child or children to inventory their school supplies left over from the previous school year. Such items as crayons, tablets, lunch boxes, calculators, etc., might be reusable in the coming school year. Also, compare the list of what they have with what each child will need to begin a shopping list.

It’s important to prioritize expenses, as you would with any shopping experience. Watch for sales and advertised specials and weigh savings at early sales with waiting for unknown price reductions closer to the first day of school or after school is in session.

After identifying the “must-haves,” such as enrollment fees, school lunch, transportation costs, etc., families should inventory school clothes and shoes. If a school dress code allows, children might be able to continue wearing summer clothing during the first few weeks of the new school year. If so, families will be able to take advantage of sales on fall and winter clothes, as retailers close out the back-to-school shopping season.

While families might be able to postpone buying new clothes, parents should check the fit and condition of children’s shoes, and make replacing shoes that are outgrown or no longer offering support a priority. Also, a child’s age and stage in life will influence spending. If a child is going through a growth spurt, parents might want to purchase fewer clothes and launder them more frequently instead of buying enough clothes to get them through the week.

Older children might want fewer, but more expensive clothes and might be able to contribute to the cost of clothing and accessories. In that case, parents need to budget a set amount for clothing and inform their child that anything above that amount, they will have to pay for him/herself.

To simplify shopping:

• Make a shopping list and take it with you.

• Review priorities before entering the store and keep your budget in mind.

• Shop at a time when the store is less crowded.

• Examine clothing construction and other merchandise (a backpack, purse or lunch box are examples) carefully before buying.

• Check care labels for clothes because dry-cleaning or other requirements adds to the costs.

Rebecca McFarland is the family and consumer sciences extension agent for Frontier Extension District No. 11, which serves Franklin County. For more information, call her at (785) 229-3520 or email rmcfarla@ksu.edu

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